The other major problem I had with Christmas during my later teenage years was the food. I’d never really liked rich food and it often seemed to disagree with me. And my mum was old-school. Meat had to be ‘well’ cooked which means that beef was like shoe-leather. I remember many a Sunday lunch (we always had Sunday lunch, it was like a training ritual for Christmas I suppose) when I chewed beef round my mouth completely unable to swallow it and had to find a hanky to dump a sodden, grey piece of… words fail me… without being noticed. There’s never a dog around when you need one!
But Christmas was worst. Chocolate I could handle in abundance, but the richness of Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and turkey with all the trimmings got the better of me time and again. Endless satsumas didn’t help. My stomach couldn’t handle all the acid. And Brussel sprouts sent me into spasm straight away. Whatever else I have against Christmas (and I’ve treated you to plenty of that) my guts were not designed for either the religious or the pagan eating rituals! I remember one particular Christmas, I think it was when I was sixteen, that I never even made it to the Christmas dinner table. That’s not strictly true. I wasn’t allowed a leave of absence, but I was allowed just to eat a small bit of turkey and some mashed potato.
If I hadn’t just spent the last 24 hours throwing up, I would have enjoyed it- NOT having to pile my plate with all the stuff I hated. As it was, I could barely even eat that, and being forced to sit and watch everyone else tucking in and ‘enjoying’ themselves placed me as the spoilsport – a role I fear I have subsequently been cast in time and again now that I don’t ‘do’ Christmas. No one wants to hear the reasons, however good they are – people just want to play having a good time and no one likes a party pooper now do they?
Being sick wasn’t really an option at Christmas. Unless you were full-on vomiting - which I managed to achieve that year. Then I was excused Christmas cake and Turkey sandwiches and when I refused the round of Quality Street (it was inevitably Quality Street even though I preferred Roses) I was allowed to repair to bed and not have to take part in the post meal festivities; washing up and TV watching. We’re talking the days before kids had tv’s in their bedroom and no one had thought of the internet. In bed meant sick. Reading. Well that wasn’t so bad. If I felt up to reading. When I didn’t feel up to reading I knew I was in real trouble. There would be no Boxing Day turkey for me. I think that Christmas I managed not to eat for the best part of a week. And once Christmas Day and Boxing Day were over, no one cared much. We no longer had big Hogmanay parties, so there wasn’t much to look forward to except a new year and one year closer to being ‘grown up.’ One year closer to leaving home and being an adult. The inevitability I wished for but never quite believed would happen. Knowing that even when it did, the expectation would be that for Christmas you’d have to go back, like my primary one bible text said – each to their own home to be taxed. And so it was.
Some doors in the Advent calendar are less spectacular than others, and I don’t know how to dress up being too sick to participate – and this probably isn’t a picture you want to look at. But when you’re busy planning the festival of gluttony that is Christmas, just for a moment take a pause to consider that not everyone likes Christmas food. Not everyone can eat Christmas food. Never mind the ethics of spending a day stuffing your face while millions of people in the world are starving. If that doesn’t put you off Christmas dinner, I don’t know what will. But it doesn’t seem to. People are great at coming up with reasons why they ‘deserve a bit of luxury’ at Christmas. I’m sorry, I don’t agree. There is plenty to go round in this world. The more we have the less someone else gets. I find the thought of starving people puts me off eating Christmas fare. It’s not just my gut that is intolerant of Christmas the older I get.
And while I’m at it – Christmas lights. Why, when we all know about global warming and scarce resources, do we all feel the need to waste vast amounts of electricity over the Christmas period? In towns, villages and our own homes. Why don’t we all donate this money to refugees? We give at Children in Need – but few of us know much or do much about REAL children in need on a daily basis. No one knew or cared when I was a child in need. But after Pudsey each year it seems we allow ourselves to go overboard on a gluttony binge. Shopping, eating, consuming… it’s all actually completely unnecessary. Christmas is not a joyous time for many people round the world. And if consumer capitalist Christmas is what you need to make you happy, I suggest you need to take a long hard look at yourself.
Like I said, today’s picture is me, sick to my stomach. Pass me the alka-seltzer.
An advent calendar of memories that are not for the faint-hearted.